It wasn’t long ago when Leslie Stevenson wondered if she’d ever get to experience a cheerleading competition for a full weekend.
Two years ago, the organizer of the Warman Cheer Classic was wrapping up the annual event when COVID-19 abruptly shut down large events across the world.
After a couple years off, the event made its return as the first full-scale cheerleading competition in the country without restrictions.
“It definitely feels great,” Stevenson said during a Saturday session.
“It was a little rushed planning, but we pulled it off.”
The Warman Cheer Classic isn’t just a passion project for Stevenson. She pours her life into carefully planning nearly every aspect of the three-day event to make it a memorable weekend for all.
“It’s a lot of emotion to bring this back for all of the kids. Just seeing what the two years have done to all of them. It’s more than I can even describe,” she said.
There’s plenty of reason to cheer on the return of the classic in Warman.
It’s one of the biggest cheerleading competitions in Western Canada with more than 2,000 athletes, 300 coaches and plenty of family and friends sitting in the stands.
For three days, Warman’s population explodes by roughly 50 per cent with approximately 6,000 people passing through the doors at the Legends Center for the 15th running of the Warman Cheer Classic.
Edmonton’s Mackenzie Smith made the trip, where she was happy to put all of the nervous energy behind her and finally perform in front of large crowds once again.
“It is nerve-wracking, but once you’re out on the stage it feels really great to be able to perform again,” she said. “It’s just an amazing experience overall. It makes you realize how much you miss it and (how much) you love cheerleading.”
Hailie Arcand is a scholastic cheerleader from Tommy Douglas Collegiate in Saskatoon. She took a year off of cheerleading when there weren’t any opportunities to travel and compete during the pandemic.
That’s no longer a concern since all pandemic-related restrictions were lifted at the beginning of the month.
“I kind of missed it for a year, but I knew I wouldn’t be competing and it wouldn’t be the same,” Arcand said. “But I’m glad the restrictions are lifting and we could compete.”
Stevenson couldn’t imagine what the Warman Cheer Classic would become when she started it 15 years ago, but seeing a surge in popularity during that time has her already thinking about next year’s competition.
“Just watching it grow in Saskatchewan is massive. Watching it grow in Canada and around the world… it’s really gone up lots,” Stevenson said.
The International Olympic Committee voted in favor of granting full recognition to the International Cheer Union and cheerleading in 2021, meaning the sport is one step closer to being included in the Olympics.
In the not too distant future, the Warman Cheer Classic could become a launching pad for more Saskatchewan Olympic dreams.